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Erin King Sweeney continues fight over income cap

Hempstead Town Board member Erin King Sweeney isn’t backing down from her fight against Republican Supervisor Anthony Santino’s cap on elected officials’ outside income — a measure that she contends is a “political hit job” against her and the two other attorneys on the Republican-controlled town board.

King Sweeney, a Wantagh Republican, filed a Freedom of Information request with the town Thursday to find out when Santino filed last-minute amendments to his proposed $125,000 limit on town board members’ outside income and when the changes were distributed.

The amendments, along with Santino’s ethics reform plan, were passed by a 4-3 vote Tuesday after a rancorous board meeting, while ethics proposals from King Sweeney and GOP Councilman Bruce Blakeman were defeated.

Meanwhile, King Sweeney’s battle against Santino is gaining support from other prominent Nassau Republicans.

Former State Sen. Charles Fuschillo of Merrick and his wife, along with the wife of former Hempstead Town Board member Gary Hudes “liked” a statement King Sweeney posted on her Facebook page Wednesday criticizing the supervisor’s “secrecy” over his “vindictive” ethics reform program.

Hudes, a Bellmore jeweler who resigned from the town board in June, would not have been able to serve if the outside income cap had been in effect while he was in office.

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) also tweeted congratulations to King Sweeney, his daughter, “on leading fight for real ethics reform & integrity. And she will continue the fight!”

King Sweeney complained at the Tuesday meeting that she and fellow attorneys Blakeman and Edward Ambrosino did not get a copy of the amendments to the income cap law until 11 a.m. — long after the changes were distributed to Santino’s supporters on the town board: Anthony D’Esposito, Dennis Dunne and Democrat Dorothy Goosby. Even town attorney Joe Ra said publicly that he had not seen the amendments until that morning.

Yet, Santino’s press office had issued a news release at 6:09 Tuesday morning announcing that the supervisor had amended his ethics plan to include a “full disclosure” alternative for those earning more than $125,000.

Elected officials could obtain a waiver to the cap if they “disclose all clients for whom they work/consult, as well as all clients who are represented by any outside firms or companies for which the official works, consults or serves an associate or partner.”

King Sweeney, an aviation attorney, initially complained the income cap would prevent successful professionals from serving on the town board.

At Tuesday’s meeting, she, Blakeman and Ambrosino said the amendments would require disclosure of all their law firms’ clients, including cases involving children, divorce or business secrets, and despite lawyer-client confidentiality rules.

They also asked how they could vote on amendments they had not had a chance to research or question.

Ra and Santino rebuffed King Sweeney’s questions about how and when the amendments were written.

“I think it shows an intention on the part of the Santino administration to exclude certain members of the town board from important information that they need in order to make an informed vote,” Blakeman said Thursday.

Taking a dig at Tuesday’s bitter back-and-forth, Blakeman said, “The good news is I’ve been contacted by a theatrical agent that wants to make the town board into a reality show.”

Santino did not respond to a request for comment.

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